Telephone Focus Groups


For business-to-business marketers traditional focus groups have always been expensive, (incentives in the $ 100 – $ 250 per person, per session range) and a sampling and logistical problem (getting 8-10 participants in the same place at the same time). Now there’s an alternative.

The Benefits of Telephone Focus Groups:

• Participants can be more carefully selected, therefore, more representative of the target audience as a whole. They have a higher “show” rate

• With more representative participants and greater geographic coverage, fewer focus group sessions are required

• Telephone focus groups keep participants focused on the issues by avoiding in-person, sidebar conversations

•The potential of discussion domination by a single participant is greatly lessened by eliminating the visual-intimidation factor

• Observers listen more carefully to participant responses when not visiting with one another in an observation room

• Telephone focus groups eliminate the travel costs and days lost for observers and the moderator

• Telephone focus groups eliminate the facility and food costs of traditional focus groups

• Telephone focus groups eliminate the video equipment and recording costs of traditional focus groups.

A Telephone Focus Group Study Includes:

• Eight to ten participants are recruited for each session

• While participants are paid an incentive for their participation, the benefit in being able to talk in “real time” with others makes it worth the cost

• Focus group sessions are usually held in the evening allowing participants to be relaxed and uninterrupted at home. Each session lasts approximately one hour and thirty minutes

• The moderator utilizes technology that presents the names of participants on a computer monitor and highlights individuals as they speak, thereby assuming that all participants become involved in the discussion

• Participants are able to listen and talk with one another, react to questions and comments, while being led by a professional moderator through a strategically developed discussion guide

• Observers are able to “listen in” on muted telephone lines from their homes, offices, or while on the road

• Observers are able to jointly debrief with the moderator and other observers after each session

• The sessions are recorded to assist in the report-writing process.

In debriefing, I find that observers have heard and retained much more information than from in-person groups, perhaps because they pay more attention and don’t “party” with other observers. I also find that participants, perhaps because they feel more anonymous, they are more open and less intimidated.

When visuals are required, I send them ahead and find this works just as well as sitting in the room together.

Now, let’s get focused.